Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Clean Sweep 54

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.

Plastics recycling company 2K Manufacturing has secured a £5m funding package backed by cleantech specialist Foresight. The London-based firm turns waste plastics into plywood-substitute boards for the construction industry, using a patent-protected moulding technology. The new funding goes towards new recycling facilities at a number of sites.

Danish PV developer PhotoSolar has raised DKr16m (£2m) led by state-backed Vækstfonden. The Danish Technological Institute, from which the firm spun out in 2003, contributed DKr4m.
PhotoSolar is developing materials for glass building facades, which use a micro-structured version of a venetian blind to shade the building's interior without obstructing the view. The firm's PowerShade technology combines this shading with amorphous silicon photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity while reducing the need for cooling.

German low-energy electronics company Novaled closed a Euro8.5m third round from existing investors, including eCAPITAL, TechnoStart, KfW and TUDAG from Germany, and France's Credit Agricole Private Equity, TechFund and CDC Innovation. Funding goes towards commercialisation of the firm's organic LED technology in the lighting and display markets. Novaled is also developing its tech for organic PV applications.

Swiss battery developer ReVolt Technology has raised an extra Euro10m in an extended second round, corporate investor RWE Innogy joining previous backers NorthZone Ventures, Sintef, Sofinnova, TVM Capital, Verdane Capital and Viking Venture.
A spin-off from Norwegian research institute Sintef, ReVolt is developing high-efficiency rechargeable zinc-air batteries for consumer and industrial applications. The company had previously announced the close of its second round in June 2007.

Norwegian electric car maker Think Global has received a NKr40m (£4m) bridging loan from existing investors after running into severe problems with its working capital. The company halted production last month and laid off most of its workforce, with the CEO claiming "urgent financial distress" and seeking NKr100-200m support.
The bulk of the loan came from Ener1 Group, the majority investor in Li-ion battery producer Ener1 which has supply deal with Think.

Still in batteries, US lithium-ion developer Boston-Power raised a $55m fourth round led by Foundation Asset Management. Existing investors Oak Investment Partners, Venrock, GGV Capital and Gabriel Venture Partners also returned to the table. Boston is ramping up production of its Sonata laptop batteries through a partnership with PC manufactuer HP, and is also developing products for electric vehicle applications.

Fallbrook Technologies, a producer of continuous transmissions for electric vehicles and other applications, raised $25.4m in its first VC round. The investment was led by cleantech specialist NGEN Partners and Robeco.
Fallbrook's wind energy spin-out Viryd landed $2.1m venture backing just over a year ago.

Waste gasification tech group Ze-gen has raised a $20m second round led by Oman-based Omaz Zawawi Establishment. Existing investors including FlagshipVentures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation also joined in, following its $4.5m first round in July 2007.
Massachusetts-based Ze-gen converts wood debris and other solid waste into a synthetic gas mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, basically by injecting the waste into a molten bath of scrap metal.

Water purification business Waterhealth International announced it had raised $10m from Dow Venture Capital and Sail Venture Partners, as part of an ongoing fourth round with a $20m target. The California company provides UV water purification systems for developing countries, and offers them to the poorest communities on a hire-purchase style contract.

Secretive cleantech specialist Quercus Trust and 21 Ventures have invested £500k seed money in each of two Texan firms: battery tech firm Graphene Energy, which is developing 'ultracapacitors' for high power density applications; and water purification tech developer Advanced Hydro. Both firms have the same chairman and acting CEO (and, by the look of it, the same web designer).

Fund news
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is reopening its $500 million Green Growth, according to peHUB. The VC giant is also reopening its recent generalist KPCB XIII fund, and seeking annex funds for older funds, in a bid to raise the necessary cash to see its portfolio companies through the recession. Unusually, the Green Growth fund, launched last May is reportedly being opened to new investors as well as existing backers.

Further reading
New Energy Finance presents its end-of-year stats for 2008 - total global investment in clean energy topped $150bn for the first time, but growth was drastically reduced from previous years. As in many other areas, it was a year of two halves, with a relatively strong first half but 'much weaker' second half. 2009 will 'get off to a subdued start', they reckon.
Venture capital and private equity investment did perform well, however, taking up some of the slack in the public markets. New investment totalled $13bn, up from $9.8bn in 2007.
For more details, see the NEF press release (28kb pdf).

The Guardian reports on grumbles from the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi about the UK's failure to join the new German-led International Agency for Renewable Energies.
At the same bash, local green energy group Masdar hinted that it might drop out of the planned 1GW London Array windfarm. Reuters has the story. (Edit: Environmental Finance has a follow-up with a Masdar spokesman insisting it “remains 100% committed to the London Array”.)

Interesting article in New Scientist on carbon-scrubbing technology, including some companies looking for VC.

The Carbon Trust's Biomass Heat Accelerator programme has produced a new practical guide to biomass heating.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Clean Sweep 53

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.

French domestic heating specialist Cede has raised Euro5m from funds managed by Turenne Capital.
Cede, based near Nantes, says its systems can cut domestic heating bills by 75%. Its heat pumps can provide heating in winter and act as a cooling air-con substitute in summer. The firm also supplies high-efficiency electric heaters.

Concentrating solar firm SolFocus announced a first close of its rolling third round at $47.5m. Apex Venture Partners led the investment, with previous investors New Enterprise Associates and NGEN Partners returning to the table. The firm says it expects to close the round later this month at $60-70m.
SolFocus installed its first commercial CPV system last year, a 500KW installation in Spain, and aims to have 100MW up and running by the end of next year.
The California firm closed its previous round at $63.6m in November 2007.

Elsewhere in the ever-busy solar space, Israel's SolarEdge has announced a $23m second round led by Vertex Venture Partners. Genesis Partners, Walden International and Opus Capital, which led the company's $11m first round a year ago also joined in the new round. Details of SolarEdge's tech remain scanty, but Vertex says it is 'developing advanced power-harvesting solutions for photovoltaic arrays that will lower the average cost per watt produced' by improving 'the power conversion capacity of photovoltaic panels'.

A few updates to previous solar stories:
Details have emerged (after some digging by PE Week Wire) about the latest, fifth round in US CIGS developer Solyndra, announced (in a high-profile but low-detail way) in October - the actual round totalled $219m, with investors including Argonaut Ventures, US Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.
Meanwhile, thin-film silicon developer Xunlight landed a $7m loan from the state of Ohio to build its first factory. That follows a $22m second round last May which was intended to take the firm into commercial production.
And SpectraWatt, the Intel spin-off which raised $50m last June, has halted work on its planned 60MW capacity factory in Oregon, blaming the credit freeze. See the Oregonian for more. I suspect this won't be the last story we see of this kind.

Cellulosic ethanol business Zeachem raised a $34m second round to help build its first biorefinery. The round was led by Globespan Capital Partners and PrairieGold Venture Partners, and included existing investors MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures, Firelake Capital and refinery group Valero Energy Corporation.
Zeachem says its combined bio- and thermo-chemical processes can produce 40% more ethanol from biomass than any known competitor. It plans to start work on its 1.5mG/a plant in Oregon this year - let's hope it fares better in that state than SpectraWatt.

Good vibes for energy efficiency start-up Positive Energy, with a $14m round from New Enterprise Associates. The Virginia-based company provides services such as home energy reports and demand response software to utilities.
Also in energy management tech, California's Sentilla raised a $7.5m round from Onset Ventures and Claremont Creek Ventures. The firm is developing wireless sensor networks (pervasive computing, in the jargon) to help commercial customers monitor their energy use.

Further reading
The Cleantech Group is first out the traps with its end-of-year investment stats - $8.4bn venture investment globally, up 38% on 2007 and marking the seventh consecutive year of growth. The rate did slow in the last quarter, however, ending up 4% down on Q4 '07. Overall, solar took 40% of the money, with US thin-film groups NanoSolar, Solyndra and SoloPower taking over $700m between them.
Europe (including Israel) took 21% of the total, with $1.8bn in 146 disclosed rounds. Total UK investment slumped 11% to $338bn, leaving Germany in the European top seat.

Quercus Trust, the California-based cleantech specialist VC, is one of the most active but secretive investors in the field. Michael Kanellos at Greentech Media has been doing some further digging into its sprawling portfolio, identifying 47 companies that have won its backing.

A sad farewell to Library House, the Cambridge-based research consultancy that did much to study and promote the European cleantech venture market through pioneering reports, the Essential Cleantech conferences, and the Cleantech 100 list.
The firm, founded by former Dragons' Den guru Doug Richard in 2002, apparently ran into cashflow problems last year and entered administration shortly before christmas. Its database assets have now been acquired by Dow Jones, part of News Corporation, to be combined with its VentureSource service. See the DJ press release for more information.

And finally... another News Corporation organ addresses the key issue facing the UK wind power industry, as the Sun declares UFO hits wind turbine.
The Financial Times has a rather more sober version, including some inside information from energy correspondent Ed Crooks on the likely source of the 'strange lights' (also see the Media Guardian). Site operators Ecotricity seem to be enjoying the publicity, anyway.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The year that was

A round-up of some the most notable deals and developments of 2008, month by month -

Khosla Ventures and KPCB announced clean motoring deals at the Detroit Auto Show. In the first direct investment by a Wall Street major in a cleantech VC, Morgan Stanley bought into NGEN Partners.

Two German thin-film developers raised big rounds - $40m for CIS developer Odersun and Euro48m for recycled silicon specialist Ersol. In the US, silicon developer Suniva and solar concentrating tech group Infinia raised $50m each.

UK wave energy developer ORECon netted a $24m first round from an international syndicate of VCs. In the US, LED developer Luminus raised $72m in the largest round to date for solid-state lighting.

US investors looked to European solar, with Malta-based SunRay Renewable Energy announcing an initial $200m deal with Denham Capital. Cellulosic ethanol heated up with a $100m+ second round in Range Fuels.

Dutch renewables group Econcern raised Euro300m from institutional investors. Solar supplier SunEdison raised $131m while solar thermal developer BrightSource Energy took $115m. Cleantech stalwart KPCB announced a new $500m fund.

Algal biofuel was flavour of the month in the US, with Sapphire Energy raising $50m and Aurora Biofuels taking $20m. RockPort Capital Partners closed its third cleantech fund at $453m.

Thin-film solar made it big in Europe, with Intel Capital and Climate Change Capital leading a Euro85m round in Germany's Sulfurcell. Welsh group G24i took $30m from 4RAE, barely a month after securing $20m from Morgan Stanley.

Thin-film also dominated the US, with a $300m 'strategic equity financing' in California's Nanosolar, and $104 second round for AVA Solar. Private equity heavyweight Blackstone launched a dedicated cleantech energy group.

Smart grid developer GridPoint raised $120m, a few weeks before Silver Spring Networks announced a $75m round. The UK's Green Energy Options was one of several companies over the year to raise money for domestic energy monitors.

Stealthy thin-film solar developer Solyndra dominated the news after announcing up to $600m funding from some of the biggest names in VC. Terra Firma Capital Partners prepared to invest £1.2bn in UK wind farms.

Carbon management software developers Clear Standards and Planet Metrics raised first rounds, as did carbon-trading software provider Carbonflow. Foresight Group announced a new £300m fund to support roll-out of its portfolio companies.

Cellulosic biofuel group Coskata was the first company to win the publicised backing of Blackstone's new cleantech fund, in a $45m round. Thin-film developer Konarka meanwhile turned to corporate investors for development funding.

I prepared this round-up as part of a full review of the year in cleantech VC, to appear in the next issue of Cleantech Magazine. As well as an overview of the trends moving the market in 2008. the full feature includes a peek at what 2009 might bring, based on interviews with some leading investors from Europe and the US. The general mood is one of cautious optimism...

Happy new year to all.